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Realities of War Touch Quad Employee

June 2003
By Erik Cagle

HARTFORD, WI—Talk about a classical case of bad timing.

Pat McDermott was standing in line, waiting to enter the post exchange on a peaceful Sunday at Camp Udairi in the northwest desert in Kuwait on March 30.

McDermott, 45, a finishing handler with Quad/Graphics' Hartford, WI, facility as a civilian—but now stationed in Kuwait as part of the war effort in Iraq—was looking to pick up a Timex watch that featured three time zones on it. Some fellow soldiers had been sporting them, so McDermott decided to get one up for himself and shop for incidentals. Little did McDermott know that he would be getting his first, and only, brush with Mideast violence.

McDermott never saw the white pickup truck racing toward the line of soldiers. Only after the truck had struck him and 14 others did he get a glimpse of his attacker, an Egyptian electrician contracted by the U.S. military. "Two bullets," according to McDermott, put an end to the electrician's rampage—which reportedly included locking three fellow workers in a break room before commandeering the truck.

Without Warning

The incident, which was under investigation, was reportedly the result of a personal dispute.

"I never saw it coming," McDermott says of the truck, which approached the back of the line. "It happened so fast. I didn't see the truck until after it hit me and went by."

The assault left McDermott with a broken left kneecap. He was later transported to Camp Wolf, also in Kuwait. A little more than a week later, McDermott was informed that he would be going home.

McDermott called his brother, Bob, from Kuwait by using his company commander's cell phone and informed him of the news. On April 10, he touched down on American soil.

A National Guard Specialist with the 1st 147th Aviation Battalion based in Madison, WI, McDermott previously spent military time in Hungary after being deployed for the Bosnia peace-keeping mission in 1997. He had only been in Kuwait eight days, and his unit was in a holding pattern, waiting for orders.

A Hero

McDermott has become a local hero in his hometown of Hartford, WI. Five television stations have paid a visit to his home, along with two newspapers, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

A divorced father of three, McDermott took his children—sons Shaun, 22, Christopher, 21, and daughter Meghan, 19, to a Milwaukee-Houston baseball game. They were given lots of time to catch up with each other, as the Brewers prevailed over the visiting Astros in 14 innings.

Recovery Road

McDermott's leave was slated to conclude on May 9. He will do 90 days of physical therapy to rehabilitate the knee, then be flown to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, where it will be re-evaluated.

"It's not too bad," he says of the knee. "Just a little pain now and then." Unfortunately for Quad/Graphics, McDermott won't be manning his post until August at the earliest.

And for all his troubles, McDermott wasn't even able to acquire the Timex watch that featured three time zones.

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